Skanska’s James Pitcher on SCCM OSD and Security with OneSite


James Pitcher, Skanska’s IT Automation Manager, explains how he eliminated the need for hundreds of servers while deploying Windows, applications, and security updates in this video interview.

Tell us about yourself!

Hi, my name’s James Pitcher. I work for Skanska UK, a construction company within the UK, and I’m the IT automation manger there. So, I look after the System Center products, and I look after automating software and operating system deployment, as well as looking after the IT solution and doing automated request fulfillment.

What were you using before you had OneSite?

We were actually just implementing SCCM 2012 from scratch.

Did you evaluate any competing solutions?

We realized that because we, in construction, have lots of sites throughout the UK — we have about 300 sites with different kinds of network connections and things like that — we realized in our SCCM deployment design, we were going to need a lot of distribution points. Trying to get that concept of any application at any site and being able to image machines, we realized we needed to look at the Alternate Content Provider (ACP) space within SCCM. So we looked at a couple of different products, and in the end, we did a proof of concept with the Adaptiva solution and chose that in the end.

What made you choose OneSite?

Just the ease of implementing it, really. Within the proof of concept, we just basically installed the Adaptiva server installation and the clients, and it just did exactly what you said it would do.

Has OneSite helped you simplify your SCCM infrastructure?

Yeah, massively. We would’ve had to deploy hundreds of distribution point servers, if we were using the native SCCM configuration.

Does OneSite save you time?

Yeah, it saves us time implementing those types of servers — maintenance. It’s also saved us time with being able to deliver now applications to machines and sites quite instantly. So, the fact of field engineers previously having to install software manually or even having to re-image machines through fixed media… That’s just saved us all that time, across all sites within the UK.

Did you have WAN congestion issues before OneSite?

Yes, initially. You know, when we were looking at deploying large products, like Office Suite and things like that. We would be conscious that we’d be hitting the network. We’d have to really plan it in advance and work out and pre-stage or deploy it by sites and having to manage it quite tightly.

Did you get complaints from the network team before OneSite?

No, to start with, we used to join the network meetings when there were problems on the network and things like that, and we would have a look at, you know, what was going on with regards to any software deployments going on, operating system deployments. And one of the things we did find in those network monitoring solutions when we were looking at issues was that the Adaptiva client really was quite optimized and wasn’t really impacting the network.

How did the peer-to-peer storage network work for you?

Yeah, so with the Adaptiva client on the machines, what happens when we send out deployments or trigger off an operating system deployment, the Adaptiva client can pre-stage content onto the machines and distribute it around with all the clients on the local network. And uses the free disk space on the clients to save that content and utilize it, so pretty much every machine can be a distribution point.

Have you had any issues with Adaptiva’s Zero Footprint Caching?

No, not really, the Adaptiva client uses the free storage and when other applications or the user saves over data to the disk, we know the Adaptiva client manages that and just uses whatever free space it has to utilize.

Was it difficult to set up the Virtual SAN?

No, not at all. Just installing the Adaptiva client and setting the initial configurations, and it pretty much manages itself.

What did you have to do to set up P2P PXE for OSD?

Just enable it on the clients. And we have it now where we can trigger off an OS deployment any site and we know we’ve got the operating system on a few machines at each site, and machines can just be built without a distribution point or a PXE server on site.

How’s the performance of OneSite Peer-to-peer PXE?

Really good. An OS re-image takes, on average, about 40 minutes.

Have you seen a benefit from using OneSite’s Policy Push?

Yes, massively. One of the things we wanted to do was have a self-service kind of app shop to be able to deploy applications to machines. With SCCM we used to try and pull that down and set it to, like, 15 minutes. But it was still not that responsive in regards to request fulfillment. So, with the Policy Push, it means that as soon as someone requests an application from the app shop, [it] pretty much logs within a few seconds the application status on the end client.

Do you use OneSite to encrypt content when at rest on disk?

Yeah, security is a concern for some applications, obviously. With the Adaptiva client, you can encrypt some data and others, so we don’t worry about encrypting the free software packages and things like that, but software that we’ve got, like, a package with the company license keys and things like that, we can encrypt them and know that it’s secure.

What’s it been like working with Adaptiva?

Really good, it’s been great. We have good technical support. Usually when we do present an issue, or anything like that, if I find something with the clients, we usually get response quite quickly, and sometimes within a few days, we’ll get sent a fix or a new build with the fix included in it.